Book Talk: The Age of Light: A Novel by Whitney Scharer
Sweeping from the glamour of 1930's Paris through the battlefields of World War II and into the war's long shadow, The Age of Light is a startlingly modern love story and a mesmerizing portrait of a woman's self-transformation from muse into artist.
— Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere
This is the story
She went to Paris to start over, to make art instead of being made into it.
A captivating debut novel by Whitney Scharer, The Age of Light tells the story of Vogue model turned renowned photographer Lee Miller, and her search to forge a new identity as an artist after a life spent as a muse. "I'd rather take a photograph than be one," she declares after she arrives in Paris in 1929, where she soon catches the eye of the famous Surrealist Man Ray. Though he wants to use her only as a model, Lee convinces him to take her on as his assistant and teach her everything he knows. But Man Ray turns out to be an egotistical, charismatic force, and as they work together in the darkroom, their personal and professional lives become intimately entwined, changing the course of Lee's life forever.
Lee's journey takes us from the cabarets of bohemian Paris to the battlefields of war-torn Europe during WWII, from discovering radical new photography techniques to documenting the liberation of the concentration camps as one of the first female war correspondents. Through it all, Lee must grapple with the question of whether it's possible to reconcile romantic desire with artistic ambition-and what she will have to sacrifice to do so. Told in interweaving timelines, this sensuous, richly detailed novel brings Lee Miller-a brilliant and pioneering artist-out of the shadows of a man's legacy and into the light.
Reviews and What Readers Say
“ Scharer's debut is a rivetingly sexy snapshot of the duo's real-life relationship as it morphs from apprenticeship to partnership to tumultuous love affair."
―Kim Hubbard, People
“ Whatever reams of research Scharer put into excavating Miller's story she distills here into clean, consistently evocative prose. The glittering bohemia of 1930s Paris, the pastoral boredom of mid-'60s Sussex, the hollowed-out carnage of postwar Europe; all come equally alive on the page, as do iconic figures like Ray and Cocteau and Kiki de Montparnasse. But none breathe more vividly than Miller herself: Fiercely independent but racked by self-doubt, desperate for affection and approval even as she chafed at sentiment, she spent decades fighting to find her voice. It was worth the wait.”
"An absolutely gorgeous and feminist novel about art, love, and ownership, The Age of Light is truly a work of art in itself, both deeply moving and thrilling. Want to know what it's like to be an artist? Read this astonishing novel and then, like Lee Miller, take time to consider the extraordinary cost she paid to be herself." ―Caroline Leavitt,Boston Globe
" Scharer's debut is both engrossing and cinematic, a must for readers who enjoy a fictional peek into the lives of real-life artists."
“ Scharer sets her viewfinder selectively, focusing on her heroine's insecurities as much as her accomplishments as an artist; her hunger to be more than "a neck to hold pearls, a slim waist to show off a belt" is contrasted with her habit of solving problems by simply leaving. The price for Lee is steep, but it makes for irresistible reading. Sexy and moving."
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Whitney received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Washington in 2004. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous journals including New Flash Fiction Review, Cimarron Review, and Bellevue Literary Review. Originally from Colorado, she now lives outside Boston with her family. Her first novel, The Age of Light, based on the life of pioneering photographer Lee Miller, is forthcoming from Little, Brown (US) and Picador (UK) in February, 2019.